By Rich Heldenfels, Akron Beacon Journal –
One of the best movies of 2011 was “The Ides of March,” and that alone should be reason enough to check it out on video Tuesday.
But there’s another reason, and it has to do with the Academy Awards.
“Ides” (Sony, $30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray) stars Ryan Gosling as a key player in the presidential campaign of a Pennsylvania governor (George Clooney, who also directed and co-wrote the script). The governor is one of the last two candidates standing in the battle for the Democratic nomination, and the Ohio primary will give one of the two the upper hand. But Gosling runs into increasing amounts of trouble in the primary. The result, as I said when the movie hit theaters, is a savvy, cynical little political tale, one full of echoes of both real-life campaigning and political movies like “The Candidate” and “The Best Man.”
Based on a play, it does at times still feel a bit stagebound; it also operates in a political world that has not embraced social media as fully as the real one. And there is at least one plot twist that audiences should detect before one of the characters does. But I still very much enjoyed the movie and its characters’ twisty maneuvers. And it demonstrates yet again what a good director Clooney has become.
Extras on video include commentary by Clooney and producer/co-writer Grant Heslov, an admiring look at Clooney and a piece about the other cast members (who include Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright). The Blu-ray adds a segment about the development of the movie from the play, and another about political consultants.
But, beyond the quality of the movie itself, think about this film when you look at the Oscar nominations — and ask yourself why an actor or director is nominated and voted for based on a single movie in a given year.
Gosling, for example, had a big triple play in 2011, with “The Ides of March,” “Drive” (due on video Jan. 31) and “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” which is already on video. But as Entertainment Weekly noted last fall, if two roles are in the same category, an actor can be nominated only for one of them. (Actors can, and have been, nominated in both lead and supporting categories in the same year.) EW said Gosling faced the dilemma of having to decide whether to push for a nomination for Ides or for “Drive” — “Crazy, Stupid, Love” was more of a supporting role — and even then, the Oscar nominators could end up splitting their votes between the two movies and leave Gosling without a nomination.
I offer a two-part suggestion. First, as was the case with the original Academy Awards, let actors be nominated for more than one performance — make it a true best-acting prize, and honor a strong body of work in a year. And, as part of that, get rid of the supporting categories with the understanding that an actor with several marvelous performances, whether lead or supporting, could be eligible for that accumulated work.
Thus Clooney, considered a lock for a lead-actor nomination for “The Descendants,” could also be considered for his supporting role in “The Ides of March.” Brad Pitt would be considered for “Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life,” both of which are on video. And, as my colleague Clint O’Connor has observed, Jessica Chastain could come into the Oscar race with four performances: “Tree of Life,” “The Debt,” “The Help” and “Take Shelter.”
In other words, when you watch “Ides of March,” don’t just think of it as an isolated example of good work by the cast. Think as well of how the actors managed to operate on this level while also doing other, often very different films — and there should be some extra reward for doing so. And reward yourself with marathons of the performers’ work on video.
Down video road: The first season of AMC’s “The Killing” will be on DVD and Blu-ray on March 13. The first season of the family drama “Eight Is Enough” will be on DVD on April 17. The second season of “Family Matters” arrives on DVD on Feb. 14. “Tower Heist” comes to DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 21. The animated “Hop” will be on DVD and Blu-ray on March 23. “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” will be on 3-D Blu-ray, regular Blu-ray and standard DVD on Feb. 7, just in time for … Valentine’s Day?